France Orders Six Patrols Boats Capable of Deploying Heavy Drones and Securing Prisoners

The procurement order was given to French ship-building company Socarenam. The vessels are part of the Overseas Patroller Programme announced by Defence Minister Florence Parly this November, aimed at strengthening the protection of France’s maritime regions and replacing the old generation of patrol ships.

France has ordered six offshore patrol ships as the country intends to counter threats to its fishing resources and biodiversity, planning to build up a “European maritime capacity”. The announcement was made earlier this week by French President Emmanuel Macron at the Maritime Economy Congress in Montepellier. The announcement itself was made by the head of state, although usually this news is reported by the defence minister or the branch of the ministry responsible for the procurement of armaments.

Following Macron’s announcement, the French Defence Ministry said that the 70-metre vessels would carry out missions of sovereignty and protection in France’s exclusive economic zone and would be used in search and rescue operations, as well as to prevent pollution and safeguard the preservation of the environment.

France has the largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the world, measuring 4,514,000 square miles. For comparison, the US EEZ is about 4,383,000 square miles.

The offshore patrol vessels will likely have a 20mm remotely controlled gun and machine guns; however, the tender doesn’t reveal weapon specifications. According to the document, the vessels should be capable of deploying a 700 kilogram rotor-blade drone and keep it undercover; they should also have two high-speed intervention boats and space to host six prisoners. With a maximum speed of at least 22 knots (40 kilometres per hour), these vessels have a range of 5,500 nautical miles, which allows them to stay at sea for a month.

Two ships will be based in New Caledonia, two others in the Indian Ocean, one will be sent to French Polynesia, and the location of the last one is yet to be determined. The patrol vessels will be delivered to the French Navy between 2022 and 2025. The sum of the contract has not been disclosed.

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